Self-handicapping during play fighting in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)

in Behaviour
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Play may serve several potential functions, including learning to overcome unexpected circumstances. Self-handicapping, during which individuals do not utilize their full strength, is proposed to provide training for the unexpected. If self-handicapping occurs, then play fight intensity should decrease as partner age discrepancy increases. By playing with reduced intensity, the older partner self-handicaps, exposing itself to situations that it does not fully control. Self-handicapping was investigated in a captive group of brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) by recording the duration and sequence of play during focal samples. All instances of play fighting were scored from video for intensity. As the age difference between the partners increased, the intensity of play bouts decreased. Since partners with larger age disparities played less intensely, results provided quantitative evidence for self-handicapping, although additional factors may affect play intensity. We suggest that self-handicapping encourages play and provides support for the training for the unexpected hypothesis.

Self-handicapping during play fighting in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)

in Behaviour



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    Interaction plot of mean play rate broken down by type of play across the different ages for all subjects. Locomotor Play (Loc), Object Play (Obj), and Social Play (Soc) are indicated. The y-axis is scaled in minutes of play per hour of observation.

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    (Left) Number of bouts between individuals of different age disparity (measured in full scale age categories; Table 2). 1950 total bouts were observed. (Centre) Number of total dyads with each age disparity. This was calculated by counting how many of all of the possible dyads had each level of age disparity at some point during the study. Note that some dyads are counted twice if the age category difference between the two actors changed over the course of the study. (Right) Relative preference for play partners calculated as the number of observed play bouts divided by the number of expected play bouts for a given age category discrepancy. The expected number of play bouts assuming that the monkeys were choosing play partnerships randomly by multiplying the proportion of play partnerships of a particular age discrepancy by 1950, the total number of play bouts observed. A preference value greater than 1 indicates that more play bouts were observed than expected by the number of play partners available, and a preference value less than 1 indicates that there were fewer play bouts than expected.

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    Intensity of play fighting bouts (N=1950) as a function of the age disparity between partners (in full scale age categories; Table 2). The radius of the circles is scaled to the number of bouts at the specific age difference/intensity score combination. The linear trendline shows the adjusted-slope and y-intercept from the model (Table 5).

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    Distribution of intensity scores for bouts with matched partners (left column) and mismatched partners (right column). The upper row shows data for Smithson (Nmatched = 141, Nmismatched = 95). The lower row shows data for Nye (Nmatched = 121, Nmismatched = 81).

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